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Salt and Sodium

Salt is not the only source of sodium you should be concerned about. When the USDA minimum daily requirement for sodium was listed between 1,110 mg and 3,300 mg, many people thought the USDA was referring to only salt.

Salt is not the only source of sodium you should be concerned about.

When the USDA minimum daily requirement for sodium was listed between 1,110 mg and 3,300 mg, many people thought the USDA was referring to only salt.

The USDA's reference was to all forms of sodium. Unfortunately, there are a great number of hidden sources of sodium in packaged, canned, frozen and prepared foods as well as in dairy products.

(NOTE: Your vitamins and some medications may also have sodium. A Centrum Senior or comparable vitamin contains nearly 61 mg of sodium. In our low sodium lifestyle, that can be more than 10% of a desirable daily intake.) Following are the most prevalent sources of sodium.

Salt (Iodized)

Commercially produced salt is 99.9% pure sodium chloride (NaCL), with 2,350 mg of sodium per level teaspoon. The old "salt mines" still provide us some of our table salt while some is also chemically produced. Sea salt is mined from the sea, but the sodium count is as high with 2,132 mg to 2,350 mg per teaspoon. Sea salt does not contain iodine. When cutting salt out of your diet, you might want to replace the iodine by taking a multi-vitamin that contains iodine or by adding a serving or two of fish to your diet each week. Check the labels of multi-vitamins to make sure enough iodine is available.

The history of salt is interesting.

Some theorize that salt was as important to our history lessons as were all of man's other achievements. Napoleon for instance is credited with creating the first "canned" foods for his army, in order to keep them alive while marching on Russia, which contained a lot of salt for preservation of the food. Salt has been used for centuries to cure meat, but is no longer used for that since refrigeration replaced the need. Some religions still use salt in ceremonies as a token or recognition of past rituals. With the introduction of refrigeration, salt was no longer necessary to preserve meat.

Today, we know that some of us just can't handle huge amounts of sodium.

Salt is not sodium, but has a lot of sodium in it. We must watch out for the high sodium salt brings to us in packaged, canned, frozen, commercially prepared baked goods, and in dairy products, all of which have added salt for longer shelf lives. Salt, is not necessary in the baking of breads. It is a combination of yeast, sugar and in some cases citric or other acids that cause bread goods to rise. Some refer to other chemically produced products as salt, such as Potassium Chloride and Potassium Bicarbonate products. The reference to this ingredient as "potassium salt" is misleading. Potassium added to products such as Featherweight Baking Powder and Herb-Ox broth, does not raise the level of sodium, but instead the levels of potassium. See below for Potassium, and for Iodine news from the Salt Skip program in Australia, click on Iodine.

A word about "blood sodium" when you see this on your blood chemistry forms.

Blood Sodium does not indicate what we are ingesting or the sodium we are concerned about unless we get too little or far too much. The kidneys keep the blood sodium constant within narrow limits, and they do it by dumping all surplus sodium into the urine. That is why a blood test tells you nothing about your sodium intake except that you are getting enough. A 24-hour urine collection may reveal that your sodium intake is excessive and that your kidneys are doing a lot of work to get rid of it. When the kidneys want help they have the ability to raise your blood pressure ? the sodium leaves faster when they do that.

Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)

Baking soda has approximately 821 mg to 980 mg of sodium per teaspoon. Generally used to leaven breads and cakes, baking soda is often added to vegetables in cooking, especially at restaurants, and is often included in antacids. A good baking soda replacement is available from Healthy Heart Market. It's called Ener-G. It is made of Calcium Carbonate and works by using three times the normal amount (from any given recipe). The secret is to put it into the batter just before putting the recipe into the oven. It begins working right away and will "tire" if it stays out of the oven during prep time. Otherwise, Ener-G does a good job.

Baking Powder

Having 320 mg to 480 mg per teaspoon, baking powder is used mostly to leaven quick breads and cakes. Yeast may be substituted for baking powder. A baking powder replacement brand called Featherweight has only 13.2 mg of sodium per tablespoon, and can be found in health food stores or Healthy Heart Market. The primary ingredient for Featherweight is Potassium Chloride. This is not salt. Some may refer to Potassium Chloride as "Potassium Salt." Not so. But if you are monitoring your potassium then you may want to evaluate Featherweight more closely before using it. Again, it takes three times the normal amount for any given recipe that you may try to convert. Put it into the batter immediately prior to placing into oven. Mix it into batter first thoroughly.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

A dangerous sodium for those who may suffer from asthma or migraine headaches. Used as a seasoning in home, restaurant and hotel cooking, MSG is present in packaged, canned and frozen foods. MSG is used extensively in Chinese restaurants, and often is the flavor ingredient in foods that advertise "Natural Flavorings."

Disodium Phosphate (or Sodium Phosphate).

Used in processed cheeses and some quick cooking cereals.


Two products used in cooking low sodium meals for low sodium diets are Featherweight Baking Powder and Herb-ox Low-Sodium bullion (broth) as well as a few other substitute broths. (In the forthcoming book: The No Salt, Lowest Sodium Soup, Salad and Sandwich book, these broths are not used. Featherweight uses Potassium Bicarbonate, while Herb-Ox uses Potassium Chloride. Neither of these can be called "potassium salt," although some tend to refer to them as such. Potassium does not increase sodium levels but an increase in potassium in your diet should be discussed with your doctor first.

However, potassium works with sodium in our bodies to regulate the body's waste balance, and normalize heart rhythms. Potassium aids in clear thinking by sending oxygen to the brain; preserves proper alkalinity of body fluids; stimulates the kidneys to eliminate poisonous body wastes; assists in reducing high blood pressure; promotes healthy skin. All of these are why, when your doctor adds diuretics to your medications he probably also added a potassium tablet.

Potassium must be balanced though. Too much or too little can cause harm to your system and to you. Symptoms of too little potassium often recognized include, poor reflexes, nervous disorders, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, muscle damage. If you have any signs of these, then you may want to call your doctor.

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